President Obama issued most emphatic criticism of Iran on Tuesday, saying the U.S. has been "outraged" by the crack down on dissenters.

Obama, speaking at a White House news conference, said the U.S. and the international community has been "appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings and imprisonments of the last few days."

"I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost," he said.

Obama was careful though to avoid any comments that could be seen as meddling in the election.

"I have made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not at all interfering in Iran's affairs," he said. "But we must also bear witness to the courage and dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place."

The president dismissed criticism from Iranian officials that the U.S. is interfering in the election, saying those remarks are "patently false."

Obama said he is continuing wait to see how the election in Iran plays out and noted that there is a path for Iran to engage with international community and "it is up to them to make a decision as to whether they choose that path."

Obama also took a question from the Huffington Post that the questioner said was directly from an Iranian dissenter. The question asked what it will take for Obama to recognize the election as legitimate.

The president answered by saying that "we can't say definitely what exactly happened at polling places" but that "what we know is that a sizable percentage of Iranian people...consider this election illegitimate."

He declined to lay out any criteria that would lead him to consider, ultimately, whether the election was legitimate or not. Instead, he said that burden is on the Iranian government.

"The most important thing for the Iranian government to consider is legitimacy in the eyes of their own people," Obama said.